Team Whistle’s recent M&A streak is intended to both expedite the company’s customer acquisition efforts and grow its number of brand partnerships.
The addition of the Charlotte-based streaming and OTT marketing services firm TIny Horse on May 21 also marks the third M&A deal in the last 18 months for the brand.
Team Whistle bought fellow content creators New Form and Vertical Networks in 2019 – moves that helped boost its long-form scriptwriting and mobile-first content creation capabilities. Each property, including Tiny Horse, has been left to operate as a standalone business.
Michael Cohen, president of Team Whistle, credits the uptick in M&A activity that has continued during the coronavirus pandemic to his company’s growing diversification of revenue streams.
Team Whistle’s primary forms of income are advertising revenue, licensing fees to ad-based OTT providers such as Sony Crackle and Samsung TV, and a growing direct-to-consumer business highlighted by a merchandise line launched last year.
“Our ability to unlock new revenue models within our existing infrastructure and workflows to hit our audience where, when, and how they want has positioned us for this opportunity to be a winner in a market where, frankly, a lot of people are fighting for survival,” Cohen said. “We’re able to take our IPs and monetize them multiple times over.”
Team Whistle’s in-house content and entertainment arm, Whistle, produces sports adjacent content on YouTube and its social media channels through franchises like “Dude Perfect” and “Bad Joke Telling.” The property offers weekly episodes of 23 different original series to 7 million sports fans.
During the pandemic, Team Whistle’s entire organization has seen its weekly viewership increase by 50% and total watch time by 25%. The company is now generating 4.2 billion global video views per month across its digital networks. Shows have mostly carried on recording remotely, although more on-site production will commence in the coming weeks with social distancing guidelines in place.
“What we’re excited about is the deepening of engagement that we’re seeing from the comments to likes and the amount of time they’re spending on that content,” Cohen said. “While viewership fluctuates for everyone, we’re using this time [without live sports and fans at home] to push more content out and expand formats viewers are loving now.”
Tiny Horse should play a vital role in the company’s development. While Whistle is more known for short-form videos, it also produces long-form content for digital and linear media partners such as WarnerMedia, NBC, and Quibi. Whistle is also in production for a show on HBO MAX, the OTT platform launched on May 27.
With streaming services always looking for content and subscribers, Team Whistle believes it can provide both while offering brands new opportunities to target online viewers leveraging Tiny Horse’s expertise. The marketing firm’s clients include Amazon, Netflix, PepsiCo, and Walmart.
“If I think of today’s ecosystem as a gold rush, we are selling the shovel,” Cohen said. “Combining our portfolio of IPs and audience with their marketing and customer acquisition capabilities allows us to come out with a powerful suite of capabilities for partners.”
Team Whistle has reportedly paid $30 million for Tiny Horse. However, the company would not comment on the cost of the transaction. Team Whistle also did not disclose its 2019 revenue. The likes of Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, and Steph Curry are also early investors in the company founded in 2014.